French Exit, a film written by Patrick DeWitt

Well I don’t know how to make this thing word wrap, but I recently saw this in a re-opened theatre. There were about 6 customers. Afterward, I looked for some thoughtful reviews and could find none. Most were negative and gave it two stars, citing Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as the reason for any stars at all.

I thoroughly disagree. I was moved by the end and thought that probably most of these people saw it on a streaming platform and have become too impatient when a story, or plot, doesn’t “follow” the typical American 3 act format that Hollywood has made almost mandatory. A movie like this is hard to follow because as you learn about the characters you learn about what’s motivating them. So it’s not a movie like, “I want to go to Paris and rejuvenate.” It’s more of a character deciding not to fight her fate.

The title is a play on the “Irish Exit,” which is when you decide to sneak out of a party without saying goodbye to the host(s) or other guests. I see nothing wrong with that, especially if the party is loud and raucous. But I did it once and the person never spoke to me again, ever. I didn’t particularly care and when I realized I didn’t care, I realized we weren’t really friends anyway. But you take a risk when you do something like that, even if there’s a nice word for it.

So this is French Exit and it takes place mostly in Paris. She has gone through her fortune and the bank is taking everything. A good friend offers her to use her apartment in Paris, and like a typical American, thinks that Michelle Pfeiffer is going to get back on her feet. At some point in Paris she writes a postcard to this friend and explains that after her 100,000 Euros runs out, and it will because she keeps giving 10,000 Euro tips to mystified waiters, homeless people, etc. — after the money runs out she is going to kill herself. She folds this postcard up and puts it under a tea cup at a cafe she’s at. The waiter sees it and apparently decides to mail it for her.

Lucas Hedges is her son and seems weirdly passive and obedient. But you find out why later. He has made this choice. She has a black cat with her, which she smuggles into the country by giving it an Ambien and making it sleep in her bag, and the cat turns out to be a significant character which they use a medium to communicate with. It contains the soul of her dead husband.

I can see why people didn’t like it (and she does not kill herself, at least in a way that is shown), but her exit from the movie was really one of the great ones. She just walks off into a dark alley with the cat (her dead husband) dutifully following, and instead of creating the sense that she is walking to her doom, you had the sense that everything was forgiven.

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